What is stress?
Stress is bad. Chronic stress is worse. A growing body of evidence shows that the impact stress has on our general health and wellness is significant. So what is it and how can you manage it?
Stress is a physiological response to danger originating from our time as a primitive species. Back in the day, we needed an extreme, immediate reaction to physical dangers such as being chased by a tiger, in order to survive. These days, not many of us face such grave circumstances. Instead we have a similar reaction to everyday challenges which is overkill, to say the least.
Our bodies are hardwired to produce a stress response, which looks something this.
When everyday stressors are ill managed and there is a buildup of cortesol and lactic acid in the body, our ability to cope lessons. There is a cyclical effect in that the more ill equipped we are to manage our stress the worse it becomes and so on.
We only have so much capacity to deal with simultaneous and long term stressors. The causes of stress are many and impact of stress on our health is serious. One such impact is stress fat.
Causes of Stress
Chronic stress can occur in response to everyday stressors that are ignored or poorly managed, as well as to exposure to traumatic events.
Specific causes of stress include, but are not limited to:
- Lack of or low quality sleep
- Poor diet
- Poor work/life balance
- Workplace and/or professional challenges (toxic workplace)
- Trouble in the home
- Health concerns
- Excessive worrying
Effects of Stress
The effects of stress are many, both direct and indirect. In fact, we don’t give chronic stress the credit it deserves as it relates to the current state of health these days.
Among others, the following conditions have been tied directly to ongoing chronic stress.
- Poor decision making
- Heart disease
- Poor performing thyroid
A new term has even been coined in recent years, stress fat! This is a very real biological response to unmanaged, ongoing stress that impairs a person’s ability to burn fat causing weight gain or challenges with weight loss.
Why Stress makes You Fat
In Dr. Hyman’s video, he highlights the following physiological responses to stress.
- Increases cortisol
- Leads to high blood sugar
- Leads to high cholesterol
- Causes depression
- Has been related to dementia
- Leads to the accumulation of belly fat
- Causes muscle loss
- Interferes with thyroid function & growth hormones
- Has been known to affects sleep
- Sleep deprivation increases appetite & sugar cravings
What do all of the above characteristics have in common? They promote weight gain! If you’ve struggled with weight loss when you are seemingly doing all of the right things, then read on!
Reduce Stress, Feel Great & Lose Weight
Many times, if we are eating a healthy diet of low carbs, good fat and reduce our overall chronic stress level, we are able to lose weight.
We can’t always avoid stressors, but we can control how we manage stress. This is the key to breaking the cycle of weight gain or pushing past a weight loss plateau.
5 Steps for Reducing Stress & Shedding Nasty Stress Fat!
#1 - You must understand the very real impacts of being chronically stressed. If you don’t buy into the cause and effect of stress and fat metabolism, just stop reading now.
#2 - On a sheet of paper, make list of all of the ways chronic stress is negatively impacting your life. In order to manage stress you will need to make some life changes. These change will only be successful if you are motivated!
#3 - Now, next to the first list, make a list of all of the ways your life could improve, in real terms, if you could reduce your stress. Draw a line between correlated items in the two lists. This is your life change motivation list!
#4 - Develop a stress management strategy. This is a BIG step! If you have the option of making changes to your life to reduce stress, do it! Otherwise the key is to implement methods for managing your response to chronic stress.
- Pick at least 3 tactics from the following list of stress management techniques. For your convenience, I’ve included links to good resources for each method. (Find products and link them to some of the options)
- Make a plan to implement them one at a time with a period of 1-3 weeks between (change is hard, take is easy!)
- Review your life change motivation list each day as a reminder to why you are taking these steps!
- After implementing each method, make a note of how (or if) that technique worked for you.
- Keep trying them until you find 3 good options.
#5 - Recognize the positive results of incorporating your stress management strategy by reviewing your life change motivation list and giving yourself a pat on the back. Accept that these techniques will be an ongoing part of your life. Don’t worry, you will be happier for it!
Chronic stress will, very often, causes weight gain or prevent weight loss. If a well formulated diet of good fats and low glycemic index carbs isn’t enough, a stress management strategy may needed to shed that unwanted stress fat!
Remember that chronic health conditions are usually the result of several physiological breakdowns happening at once, therefore, there is not likely a single “magic pill” that you can take to fix them. Good health comes as a result of implementing good habits in the form of proper diet, nutrition and ample exercise.
*Remember to check with a healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, including the introduction of supplements.